FutureMobile AppsPandemicProductivityProgrammingTechnologyWeb Development

Foundation is Panda Rose’s internal user-interface toolkit, which we built from the ground for rapid-development of rich, interactive applications spanning multiple platforms. Our initial targets were web-based single page applications and mobile iPhone and Android applications, and recent developments have allowed us to add Mac and Windows to that growing list.

Foundation integrates very closely with our internal backend framework, Kojo, and most who’ve worked with Foundation have encountered it in its conjoined form, Kojo-Foundation.

Our foundation has a bit less rebar and cement.

Standardised Technologies

We’ve rolled the first version out over the past couple years and achieved many of our objectives. The development cycle in Kojo-Foundation utilizes a core of well-standardised, well-understood web technologies: PHP, HTML and CSS, TypeScript and React. Our cross-platform environment allows all versions of an application to share common business logic and even presentational views, and our common toolkit of components allows the application to shape-shift into different environments. A straightforward plugin interface allows individual applications to easily expand the core, and the expansive reach of React Native means that no capability of iPhone or Android is out of reach.

The end goal: fully native applications that look and feel great on every platform, with a cycle of development and maintenance that is as straightforward as composing and updating simple web pages.

The Sequel

In 2020, however, we took a pause along with the rest of the world, and out of this we’ve produced a sequel.

The world of frontend development, driven by JavaScript and its derivatives, is notoriously dynamic and fast-changing (much to the displeasure of managers the world over) and much had changed over the course of our initial development cycle. Here we had a chance to reckon with those advancements and plot a course forward.

Further, over the past few years we’ve encountered many pain points in the modern web development toolkit. A toolkit which, to be sure, is wonderful, largely free of cost, and enables vast leaps of individual creativity, but also adds heaps of complexity to a toolkit which is, at its core, simple, intuitive, and eminently teachable to a broad audience. In short, the very qualities that introduced many of us to the creative potential of the web many years ago.

A Return to Simplicity

Simplicity is beautiful.

At the core of our effort is to return to that place of simplicity and rapid, accessible development, while taking on and making broadly accessible the many wonderful advancements of the past 20 years which enable us to do more and reach a broader audience than we’d ever have imagined, hacking together homepages in Notepad in 1999.

In the coming weeks, we will count the ways.

BusinessFuturePandemicProductivitySelf-ImprovementTechnology

I5 to downtown Seattle, puget sound, and Olympic mountains, photograph by Thatcher Kelley https://colorbent.com

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that probably most of you reading this right now have approximately a three-step daily commute these days. I mean, literally, you take three steps and you’re there. And if more than that, it’s probably still shorter than one minute, right? So what better time than now to talk about your commute to work?

OK, maybe I’m being a little ironic. Don’t you think?

And isn't it ironic, don't you think
#sorrynotsorry

No daily commute = no more pants!

But think about it. For those of you able to work from home right now, you may be at any of a number of stages of wondering if you might like to continue working from home once the rules are loosened around this pandemic. After all, you can roll out of bed, maybe change your clothes, and there you are, right at the office! You don’t even need any pants! Just this morning, I led a very public Zoom live broadcast with a nice blouse on top, and my pyjamas on the bottom. At the end of the day, I can just meander downstairs and hang out with the kids, or I can unlock my bedroom door and let them all burst into my bedroom while all yelling things at me at the same time. It’s convenient!

man video internet broadcast no pants
Pretty fancy live broadcast setup for a guy who isn’t even wearing any pants.

But have any of you noticed that maybe this non-commute isn’t totally ideal? And I’m not talking about just the working-at-home factor with kids or a spouse wandering into Zoom meetings and the temptation to eat an entire bag of chips because nobody else is looking. I’m talking strictly about commuting. The lines between work and home are blurred. Sometimes I work until late at night if my kids or husband don’t pull me away (like I’m doing right now, hahaha . . . ha . . . ha *ahem*). Some days I might work all day . . . and then keep working until I’m dragged away for supper (my awesome husband is the cook). I’m no expert, but this can’t be a good thing. Does this mean that I might NEED a commute to separate work from home?

The long commute

I’m sure you all know that a long commute isn’t a great. You know this because you’ve probably experienced it. Depending on various factors, it can be stressful and tiring, both physically and mentally. But did you know that a long commute can affect you negatively in more ways than that?

Researchers found that each extra minute of commuting time reduces both job AND leisure time satisfaction and increases strain and worsens mental health for workers, and multiple studies even suggest that commuting can be more stressful than actually working. 😮 In fact, an 20 additional minutes of commuting per day has the same negative effect on job satisfaction as receiving a 19% pay cut. Yikes.

It can be particularly stressful and dangerous during open season on the LA Freeway.

An employee’s long commute isn’t good news for an employer either. An employee who commutes a long distance is more likely to have a higher rate of absenteeism and more sick days, caused the extra stress on joints, or for those who take public transit, more time spent in close proximity to others.

With all of this in mind, one might also wonder, “so why isn’t a zero commute perfect?”

The importance of transition time

Well, as it turns out, a regular daily commute is a great time for preparing for your day before work and decompressing from your day after work. People often use their drive in to work to think about upcoming projects, meetings, events, and various other work-related things, and the people who do this also experience more work satisfaction as well.

I can personally speak to this — normally my commute is approximately 45-50 minutes long. Fortunately, it’s a reverse-commute, so I rarely hit bad traffic, and a lot of it is through the countryside with very little traffic. After living here for five years, I STILL haven’t found a radio station that I like, so I’ve turned to podcasts; educational podcasts as well as podcasts that offer insight into how I can improve myself.

Oprah: bees!!!
Did you know that the world record for most bees in a person’s mouth is 109? Well now you do.

I learn something new almost every day, either a piece of knowledge about how I might be able to improve how I work, or something about psychology and how I might adjust the way I work with other people, or just a fact about the world that is incredibly interesting. (If you’re wondering, some of my favourites include Hidden Brain, Something You Should Know, No Such Thing as a Fish, and 99% Invisible.) I can’t leave out the detail that such a long drive is exhausting. By the time I get home, I’m usually too tired to do anything.

Alternative transportation (this isn’t just about cars!)

“OK,” some of you might be asking, “what about the differences in modes of transportation?” Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. It turns out that people who walk and cycle are the happiest and most satisfied and even find that their commute is often the best part of their day. As for distance, the happiest are the walkers and cyclists who have a short distance to travel. And not only that, the behaviour improves their physical health and can enhance job performance.

Monty Python ministry of silly walks
I can only imagine how joyous and meaningful one’s life would be if one were to adopt a silly walk for his or her daily commute.

And what about those who ride public transit? They fall somewhere in the middle. Transit riders do experience stress, particularly if their bus is delayed or stuck in traffic (an occurrence that walkers and cyclists rarely need worry about), but when they have stressful days at work, their detachment from the commute actually helps them de-stress so by the time they are home, they have recovered from the stress and are ready for home life.

Why is this long commute such an issue anyway?

I know some of you might be sitting there saying, “well duh, just move closer to work!” which does seem to be an obvious solution, but like most things, life is not really that simple. Did you know that the average distance from home to work has increased over the last several decades? Now, this is information out of the US, but I’m going to bet that Canada isn’t that different. On average, US commute is about 50 minutes. Yeah. FIFTY MINUTES. Which surprises me and doesn’t surprise me at the same time.

As an aside, I’m a native of Seattle, and I knew many people who had commutes like that, and even longer. I asked my dad what his worst commute ever was, and he said it was from our home in Des Moines (south of Seattle) to Redmond (that’s where Microsoft lives). On a good day, that’s about a 40 minute drive. During rush hour it’s twice as long. And out there, rush hour starts at 6 AM and ends around 9:30 or 10:00 AM. So there’s no avoiding it.

kingdome implosion
Eventually, you start to feel a bit like the Kingdome by the end of the day.

Anyway, back to what I was saying, why don’t people just live closer to work? Well, the population has just about doubled, while homebuilding has decreased, leading to an increase in housing prices, especially in metropolitan neighbourhoods. Any jobs close to where people work are next to impossible to afford, and even if they are, they aren’t ideal for families. So affordable housing is pushed further and further away from centres of where people work. Enter: the long commute.

If 50 minutes is too long, and 0 minutes is too short, then what IS the ideal daily commute?

Good question, and I could be annoying and say that everybody’s ideal commute is going to be different from person to person, but I won’t do that to you. I mean, yes, the preceding statement is true, but you know that already. But interestingly, when a study in San Francisco asked people about their ideal commute times, they found the ideal daily commute was approximately 16 minutes.

luke skywalker in his hovercraft
I’m not sure I’m settled on my ideal length of commute, but this is definitely my ideal mode of transportation.

About one-third of the respondents said their ideal commute time would be 20 minutes or more, less than 2% said theirs would be ideally under 4 minutes, and only 1.2% desired a zero commute. However, nearly 52% preferred a commute at least 5 minutes longer than their (on average) 10-minute commute. Meanwhile, 42% of participants whose actual AND ideal trips were the same, their average commute time was 15 minutes.

So there you have it: your average commute time is probably somewhere around 15 or 16 minutes.

So what do I do now?

I mean, you can do whatever you want, really. But I recommend you take this information, and start planning for the future. Someday we’ll be able to leave our homes for work, but for now I’ll leave you with these tips:

  • If you remain at home with zero commute, consider a 15 minutes before and after work virtual commute, whether it’s a walk around the block, or sitting quietly with your eyes closed thinking about the upcoming day, or the day you have just finished.
  • If your commute feels too short, go ahead, leave a bit earlier in the morning and take the scenic route. I add five minutes to my drive just so I can avoid traffic and so I can drive the scenic way, and it’s well worth those five minutes.
  • If your commute is ideal and you are a happy person, then keep doing what you’re doing. You’re a rockstar!
  • If your commute is too long, then you’ve got a few things to think about:
  • Is it possible to move closer to work? Is your current job worth the drive? Would you consider getting a job closer to home? If the answer is yes, then try one of those, if the answer is no, then find ways to make your commute more enjoyable:
    • Find someone who lives near you and works near you to carpool with.
    • Turn off the radio and start listening to something that will really engage your brain and get it in gear for the day. Yup, that’s right. No music. (See my podcast suggestions above.)
    • Consider requesting to telecommute once or twice a week, just to give your body a break from the long drive.
  • If you ride public transit, keep your brain engaged. Prepare for the work day, listen to podcasts, or read a book.
  • Talk with the strangers around you. I know it seems like you might be annoying, but it turns out that most people are pretty happy when someone reaches out to talk with them. Don’t know how? Start with a classic, like commenting on the weather.
  • If you walk or bicycle to work, you’re probably already happy, and you probably shouldn’t distract yourself whilst doing so anyway, so you just keep being your happy self.
dog walking on hind legs down grocery aisle making decisions
There are so many things you can do to improve your life! So many choices! What will you do?!

You’re not alone

We all have our own commuter stories, so I asked some friends, family, and coworkers about theirs:

DeborahWorst: My worst commute might have been when I had to go to a chiropractor twice a week in Bothell. Because I didn’t want to deal with traffic, I scheduled my appointments extremely early. However, if I left just five minutes too late, my drive time was doubled. And then I had the commute from there to work (which was only a 15 minute drive from my home).
Best: When I worked at the same company as my dad for three years. I lived only a mile from my parents, so my dad and I carpooled, it was a reverse commute, and only 15 minutes. I loved having that good quality time with my dad.
-Deborah (me)

TimBest: I used to live a 5 minute drive away from the Safeway I used to work at. I’d start at 6:30am so there were no cars going there. And almost guaranteed no traffic on my way home.
Worst: Worst would’ve been going to and from Spruce Grove during the winter.
-Tim, systems administrator

StefenWorst: Worst was bussing from Edmonton to Spruce Grove about 5 years ago. Bus service has improved significantly since then — at the time, I’d get up at 4:30am to catch a connecting bus at 5, which would drop me off at the bus garage. There I’d wait half an hour for the one departing bus to leave for Spruce Grove, and if I missed it for some reason, there wasn’t another.
Best: Best was the 15 minute walk from my house to the office. Winter, summer, not too bad. Just enough time to collect my thoughts and plan the day.
-Stefen, developer

LeahBest: Best was a 10 minute drive during my summer job; I worked at the golf course, no traffic (or just small town traffic)
Worst: Worst commute is driving in the winter into Spruce Grove, the first like 25 minutes of my drive the roads NEVER get cleared if its snowed until the afternoon, so if it has snowed it’s always risky.
-Leah, social media specialist

KellyWorst: I had to take the streetcar or subway from [in Toronto] Dundas and Roncesvalles to Dundas and University… However, if I caught the streetcar or subway between the hours of 730-930 on the way in, I’d be standing the entire way and stopping constantly, turning what would be a 30 min commute to usually an hour and a half. If I caught the subway at those times, it’d be shoulder to shoulder the whole way in and super uncomfortable. On the way back was worse though. There was a shortturn about 10 blocks before my stop, and the streetcars never were marked for when they were shortturn or not. So regularly I’d catch the streetcar, be standing and uncomfortable the whole way, and then be dropped off in -20C weather 10 blocks short of my apartment, and have to wait for the streetcar that isn’t shortturning. If I tried to take the subway instead, it was worse than the morning. So I basically had to not leave until 630/7 at the earliest.
Best: Best commute was living downtown Toronto, literally a block from Panda Rose at our Dundas and McCaul location. Simply being able to walk and avoid public transit changed my quality of life immensely.
-Kelly, CEO

MaxineWorst: Worst commute was roughly 60 mins, first heading west to drop kids at dayhome and then back north to the office.
Best: Best commute was 15-20 mins to Spruce Grove Panda Rose office but won’t compare to the 30 second walk to my kitchen table as of late.
-Maxine, operations manager

GerardWorst: I used to commute up and down to university daily. It would take an hour drive to get to the city and then I would need to catch a bus from the park and ride area which would take another 20/30 mins. And if you got caught during traffic time between 8-10 in the morning or 4-6 in the evening you might as well add another hour on to the journey.
Best: Does the current situation count? Haha
-Gerard, developer

JoshWorst: Working at Metro East Base in Bellevue was the worst (only for 3 weeks). Having to be there at 5:30 or 6 AM. Traffic on I405.
Best: My favourite commutes were on my way in to work at NWCN in South Lake Union. The drive on the viaduct at sunset was epic.
And traffic was light.
-Josh, Deborah’s twin brother, public bus driver

Thatcher KelleyWorst: Culver City CA commuting from Whittier, CA. 1.5 hours each way 5 days a week.
Best: We were shooting at the airport and I lived in Seatac. But that was only a couple days.
-Thatcher, Deborah’s other brother, Digital Imaging Technician

PatWorst/Best: I don’t think I have had any worst commute. I guess when I worked at World Vision it was the furthest but reverse commute so not bad at all. I guess my best commute was when I worked from home. I drove from Des Moines to Burien, Des Moines to Des Moines, Des Moines to Federal Way (nice drive down along Redondo), Redwood City to Palo Alto. Really most were within 15-20 minutes and traffic not bad. I mean from Normandy Park to World Vision was always nice because it was reverse commute and I just listened to the radio the whole way. 20 minutes tops.
-Pat, Deborah’s mum, retired

Well look at that — the Boomer had perfect commutes her whole life. 😉 But seriously, her experience backs up the research!

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man in pigeon costume attacking man

The dilemma

So government has forced you to close up shop.

And the landlord is still expecting you to pay rent.

And you’ve got bills to pay.

You’ve got products that are going to go out of fashion.

You’ve got people who rely on you for employment.

You’ve got your own family to support!

So what’s a business owner to do in a situation like this?

For obvious reasons, you can’t just open up your shop and run business as usual. A fine from the government is the last thing you need right now! But surely there must be an alternative?

If you're the kind of guy who can help me pay my bills, I can help you in other ways
Yes. We can help you in other ways. You can help us in other ways. We can help each other in all sorts of ways.

 

Well, yes, in fact there is (I’m sure you saw this answer coming a mile away).

eCommerce!

But wait, there are some things you need to consider first . . .

The elephant in the room

And of course, I have to mention the elephant in the room.
Oh, it’s way bigger than an elephant.

 

Yes, that one. Amazon. Let’s face it, as soon as you enter the online marketplace, you are competing with Amazon. That’s not an easy feat. You’ve also got Etsy, Ebay, and countless other well-established sites out there to compete with. You need to ask yourself these questions:

What makes you stand out from the rest? What makes you different? How are you unique? What do you have to offer that they don’t?

Do you sell something unique to the region? Do you sell something that everybody wants, but can’t get from the mainstream big box stores? Do you offer delivery services in your region? How about next-day pick-up so a customer can save money on shipping? These days it takes several weeks for even Amazon Prime members to receive items in the mail. For an online shopper, being able to get their hands on an item quickly is like gold!

But . . . how?

There are lots of ways to open your own online shop. The first thing you need is a website. If you don’t have a website, you need to get one 10 years ago! You can’t possibly tell me that you’re too good for a website and don’t need one. No lie: any time I’m looking for a new place to shop where I haven’t been, I try looking up their website to see if they’re worth my time. And honestly, if the look kinda ghetto, I’m less likely to go. So get yourself a good-lookin’ website.

But why else do you need a website? I mean, everybody knows about you and people find you through word of mouth, right? Well, what about when your friend Janice’s aunt Sally’s best friend Betty’s sister Noreen hears about the shop from aunt Sally, but aunt Sally can only partially remember the name, and Noreen has an even worse memory than aunt Sally, so she only remembers that your shop’s name had something to do with pigeons or birds or something and the name of the town it’s in.

Man feeding pigeons, man-sized pigeon attacks man
Birds aren’t even real.

But if you have a website, Noreen can type those words in, and if your website has good SEO, that will be enough for search engines to help Noreen find your website, and find your shop!

I mean, but how about that online shop idea?

Oh, yes, that. So let’s assume the website thing isn’t an issue. Now you need to figure out how to sell your items online. There are a number of ways to do that, either through third-party websites where your products will be lumped in with a bunch of other products for sale from other businesses, or on your own website.

Amazon

Xena, Warrior Princess
Ummm, not that Amazon.

Yes, you can actually sell your own products on Amazon. But do you really want to compete with Amazon on their own website? Probably not. If you’re selling a product that Amazon already sells, you must list it on the same page, you can’t duplicate a product, but you can’t incentivize your product with two-day shipping. That’s something you have to earn. And speaking of shipping, Amazon decides how much your shipping rates are going to cost. If you’re interested in trying that outlet, article on Amazon.ca has some basic info on what you need to know to sell on Amazon.

Ebay

Ebay is an interesting place, but you have to do your research if you want to sell there. Taking a look at top-selling items can be helpful in telling you what people are looking for on ebay. If your product doesn’t really fall into those categories, then it might not be the right place for you. If you sell antiques and collectibles, it’s almost definitely the place for you. If you want to learn more about ebay, here is where you can check out their selling basics page.

While you’re on their site, it’s kind of fun to look at their prohibited items page. Among may other things, if you’re trying to sell any of these things, I suggest you avoid ebay:

  • Stolen property
  • Products that pose a health or safety hazard (that seems really open-ended to me)
  • Escort services
  • Personal advice
  • Pacemakers, heart valves, vascular grafts, ventricular bypass devices, and implantable infusion pumps
  • Expired coupons
  • Social security numbers
  • Human remains (except human scalp hair)
  • Used urns
  • Expired food
  • Narcotics
  • Used underwear
  • Speleothems, stalactites, and stalagmites obtained from caves on government land
Urn with text
You can’t sell this on ebay.

So, if your store sells any of these things, I’d steer clear of Ebay.

Etsy

Is most of your product handmade/original product? You could choose to open your own Etsy store. If you sell something particularly unique, this is not a bad option, or if you sell craft supplies or vintage items. You will find yourself competing with a lot of suppliers from China, though, which is always a challenge. Warning: like ebay, you also cannot sell human remains on Etsy. Also off the table: metaphysical services, violence, and illegal items. If you want to read more about Etsy’s store policy, you can view it on the Etsy website.

Portlandia
If you sell locally made artistic stuff, Etsy just might be the place for you. Put a bird on it!

Now, as much as I like shopping on these sites, if you’re a mature business with a storefront trying to move into the online world, a better option would be to create your own store rather than putting all your products into someone else’s store, and this is where Panda Rose would really like to help you out.

Shopify

A very popular hosted E-Commerce platform for selling products is Shopify. You pay a monthly subscription fee and can add any number of upgrades for additional features. They’ve got a nice clean-looking catalog and it’s relatively user-friendly. And yes, you can get your own web address, so if you want your site to be www.myawesomepigeonstore.ca, it can be that. Shopify can adjusted to have the look and feel that you like to match your company’s branding, and it can integrate well with Canada Post, manage your inventory, connect with your accounting system, and anything else you could possibly want.

If that’s not enough, there are some big names out there who trust Shopify — Adele, Lady Gaga, World Wildlife Foundation, Hasbro, The Economist, Heinz, and BBC. As you might imagine, while it’s primarily a shop, it’s somewhat versatile in how you can use it.

men dressed as ketchup
If it’s good enough for Heinz, it’s good enough for you. (Wait, is this a depiction of ketchup cannibalism? Yikes.)

As a drawback, it tends to be more on the “cookie cutter” side of things, which I’m never a big fan of.

WooCommerce

Speaking of versatility, if that’s what you’re after, Woocommerce is what you’re really going to want. I might be a little biased because I enjoy working with WordPress so much, but I’ve always liked how easy it is to manipulate everything in WordPress, which also includes Woocommerce. They’ve got a plugin for everything, but you don’t always need that plugin, you can often figure out your own code to make things work the way you like.

One project that was particularly interesting last year was making WooCommerce work with a non-Wordpress  site for doing fundraisers. The site was built from our own code, but pulled all the WooCommerce info for products and whatnot, and people completed their purchase on the site. Our client only really had to deal with the WordPress/WooCommerce side of things as well where their main site is, which kept things easier for them.

Paris Hilton & Nicole Ritchie
At Panda Rose, we can do pretty much anything. Just like Paris and Nicole.

All this to say that: if there’s something you want us to build, we can make it happen. Our answer is rarely “no”, and when it is, it’s usually because it’s in your own best interest, and if you still insist anyway, then so be it! We generally believe that nothing is impossible. I think that WooCommerce aggress with us with their “sell anything” and “no limits” points on their WooCommerce Features page.

Are there other eCommerce platforms?

I mean, yeah.

Are you going to tell me all about them?

No.

 

Platform shoes
Some platforms are awesome, like these shoes.

 

guys wearing crocs shoes
Some platforms are Wix and Squarespace.

While there are other platforms that offer eCommerce like Squarespace and Wix we generally recommend against using those types of platforms. They are not good for SEO and their limitations are significant. Because of their business model, they also tend to nickel and dime you for every little upgrade you want. eCommerce or website, just avoid these platforms. They’re not nice to work with and they don’t look good to search engines.

So what now?

Give us a call, comment on this blog, send us an email, contact us through our social media, send us smoke signals, or whatever way you prefer to communicate and set up a meeting with us. We can walk through the wide world of eCommerce and help you make the best decision for the type of business you run. We can help you build or refresh your website, and we can help integrate eCommerce into it. If your funds are more limited, we can help set things up and send you down the right path with a bit of training.

At the end of the day, we truly want to see the small businesses in our community be successful. As long as we have the tools to help business owners do that, we’d like to be a part of that.

Ben Stiller
You can be successful without eating it for breakfast or drinking skim milk. Personally, I like whole milk. And it’s OK if you like to skip breakfast.
EducationFuturePandemicProductivitySelf-ImprovementTechnology

Men with toilet paper headdresses: Post-Coronavirus males, displaying their hunter gatherer prowess in order to attract mates.

The title seems so simple, “how to survive a pandemic in 5 easy steps,” right? I’m sure the extroverts out there think I’m nuts. It’s true, as an introvert, this is my time to shine. I’ve never felt better. Working at home in front of my computer with my kids locked out of my bedroom has been like a dream! Sometimes I can work overtime and nobody gets annoyed at me for getting home late because . . . I’m already home! It’s a little like being back at university, but without six female housemates arguing over who should have done the dishes.

I’m only sorta surviving

To be fair, instead I get the eight-year-old picking my lock (I can hear him doing this as I type right now) and coming into my room and asking if I can purchase “violent games with lots of killing” for his iPad, and once he leaves, he leaves the door wide open, so that . . .

My four-year-old can come dancing in and announces, “I wish I still had hands!”. After a short, but strange conversation involving Elsa and unicorns, I tell her to go back downstairs to dad, but she forgets to lock the door, so that . . .

The two-year old can boisterously BURST into my room and joyously yell, “HI MOM!”, then say a few things that half make sense, try to get into several things she shouldn’t get into, climb on the bed, jump on it, come over to me and look up with her big blue eyes and ask me a question that also doesn’t make sense that ends with “mom??” and when I message dad to fetch her, she hides in my closet.

But they’re a lot cuter than my housemates were. So it’s OK. Anyway . . .

Please please please do more than just sit on your couch.

Knowing how to be by yourself in your home is, in and of itself, a great trait to have. Being able to entertain yourself is something we strongly encourage our own children to do — without TV, iPad, or phones. So why don’t we hold ourselves to the same standard?

Hobbies

I’ve got to be honest with you right now: watching Netflix is not a hobby. Sure, it can be an entertain way to pass an evening or a Sunday afternoon, but it’s going to turn your brain into mush. If you’re one of the many people who isn’t able to work from home, now is a great time to work on a hobby.

Pick up an old hobby

Is there an old hobby that you used to do that you miss doing? Just recently, I decided I’d try learning how to use a serger that I’ve had for two years, but was too intimidated to try. Unfortunately, the serger conquered me and I went back to using my sewing machine, and I ended up sewing some sweet clothes for my children for Easter.

I used to really enjoy doing seed bead work by hand, but because I’d spend about 2 hours a day commuting to and from work, I was too exhausted to do anything once I finally got the kids to bed. Now that I’m home all the time, I have a lot more energy!

I used to do beadwork before I had kids, and starting up this creative work again has been wonderful.

Is there a hobby you used to do? Something you did as a child, a young adult? Try picking that up again. You may rediscover your love for it. I know that every time I start sewing again, I’m reminded how much I truly enjoy it.

Learn a new hobby

Is there that hobby that you always wish you could do, but haven’t gotten up the nerve to try it yet? Now is the perfect time! And in this day and age, it’s incredibly easy to learn new things. There are countless youtube videos, blogs, and other resources for learning how to try out new hobbies. If you have a friend who does it already, you can video chat with them.

I enjoy knitting, but once got caught up on a particular stitch that I kept messing up, so I had a video chat with my husband’s aunt and she helped me figure it out. This weekend when I was trying to figure out my serger, I had a video chat with Pauline at Laberge Engraving (check them out!) while she tried to help me figure out what was going on with my machine. And of course there is the great Facebook network of brains!

Teach a hobby

My son has expressed an interest in sewing, so I’m helping him learn that as a new hobby, which I think is great — not only is it a fun hobby, but it’s a great skill to learn. It’s helpful that Walmart is still open — the tools and bits you might need for hobbies that you might want to pick up are available at Walmart.

Skills

I’ll admit that this is an impressive skill.

The topic of hobbies really leads me into the next topic: skills. Right now is also a good time to develop an old skill or learn a new one. If you’re not able to work from home, maybe now is a good time to try building on a skill that might be profitable now or in the near future. Do you know if you will still have a job when the world starts opening back up? What will business be like? The way we do business is already significantly different now. Having more and better skills will certainly improve your odds!

Practise a skill you already have

You might already have some great skills under your belt, but there’s always room for improvement. Do you know several programming languages? Learn a few more! Are you good at writing? Work on improving different writing styles. Are you generally good at repairing things? Break some of your household electrics and try to repair them (OK, maybe not this one.) If you’re already good at something, work hard at getting better at it. Don’t be complacent.

I don’t even have any good skills. You know like nunchuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills. Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!
-Napoleon Dynamite

Improve upon and learn new skills

My husband has always been interested in hunting, but he has really developed this new skill during the quarantine. The nice thing about hunting is that he CAN leave the house, but he remains isolated. What’s even better? He’s developing his hunter-gatherer skills! He now brings home bunnies weekly.

Food for thought: take one of your hobbies and develop it into a useful skill that can be practically applied to your life! Me? I’ve taken my sewing skills and developed them into learning how to alter clothing — that was how I made my children’s easter outfits. I converted an old dress and blouse of mine into dresses for the girls and a bow tie for my son!

Cute little gremlins.

Education

As they say, knowledge is power, and I don’t know about you, but I like power. And I’m sure you think that sitting around watching documentaries on Netflix is educational, but I’m sorry, folks, but not every documentary is good, and Tiger King is not really educational.

However, there are scores of websites out there offering some pretty amazing free and significantly discounted educational courses right now. You can learn very serious things and very silly things. You can get a good education in something that will support that skill you are learning or developing!

I can hear it now though, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” Ah, but you can. I once had a dog who was old and I taught her “go away”. Was that new? Yes. Was it a trick? I think so. It was certainly useful when she was annoying me begging for food at the dinner table.

Studies have shown that constantly learning through life is one of the best things you can do for your brain, so even when you’re not in pandemic mode, pursue learning!

Resources

Here are just a few sites you can check out:

Prepare for a new world

What world do we even live in now?

We will need some serious hunter-gatherer prowess when the world opens back up? I don’t know. We may need better Walmart prowess. But you know, unlike my hunter-gatherer husband, Walmart doesn’t sell bunny.

Tasty tasty Peter Rabbit

A new Renaissance?

In all seriousness, what do you think things will look like? We may still need to remain more isolated than we were before. People will have to be far more careful than they were before. What are new industries that can come out of this? How can YOU be a phoenix rising from the ashes?

Some say that the Renaissance occurred because of the Black Plague. Is it possible that we could have a new Renaissance come out of this global event? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with optimism, because this is quite a serious war we are fighting here, but having hope for the future is important too.

Going social

You know what else you’re going to have to prepare for? Being social again. It might be a shock to the system. Make sure you have a plan so you don’t overdo it. Plan to see family, plan to see close friends, plan to reengage with society slowly but surely. You may be surprised to discover that there is something to this whole introvert thing.

Prepare for death

You might die. In fact, you will definitely die.

Not to be a downer, but it’s also possible that despite doing all these great things, you might die. It’s OK though, because everybody dies eventually, and the sooner you accept that and deal with the reality, the better. Once you have prepared yourself for death, you can better live a full and complete life.

Speaking for myself, I don’t particularly want to die, but I’ve come to terms with it. We talk about it with our children, so our children aren’t afraid to talk about it with us. We don’t need to hide from death, and we don’t hide it from our children.

The children issue

If you have children, give them some credit. They are capable of having these kinds of discussions. They can talk about death, disease, pandemics, and all these issues that we like to shelter them from. We can be honest with children and still shelter them at the same time. Don’t be afraid to tell them your concerns, but remind them how you will always do everything within your power to protect them.

There’s a lot of death in my family. (Don’t feel sorry for me.) Fun fact: this is exactly where I will be buried!

Be practical

It also doesn’t hurt to prepare for death in more practical terms. What will happen if you die? Will your family be burdened with the cost of dealing with your body, burial, and all that stuff? I’m speaking to myself on this one too! We’ve purchased our plots — we did so when we lost a baby 8 years ago, but beyond that, haha, good luck kiddos, you’re going to have to deal with everything else!

If there’s one thing that was particularly memory about my grandfather’s death (aside from him, you know, dying . . . with his jaw hanging open), was as soon as it happened we called Neptune Society and they took care of everything. We didn’t have to worry about anything. Well, I pushed his mouth back up and sorta tried to hold it there to see if it would stay closed. But aside from that.

Conclusion

So there you have it, there are your five simple steps of how to survive a pandemic. I think it can mostly be summed up as: don’t sit on your bum watching Netflix all day. DO SOMETHING.